Mark Esper
Mark EsperReuters

The Pentagon said on Sunday that US President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of up to 1,000 troops from northern Syria, almost the entire ground force in the war-torn country, AFP reports.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the move came after the US learned that Turkey was pressing further into Syria than had been expected.

And the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are seeking a deal with the Syrian regime and Russia to counter-attack against the Turks in the north, Esper added.

"We find ourselves as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation," the Defense Secretary was quoted as having told CBS's Face the Nation.

"So I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," he added.

Esper said he was unable to provide a timeline because of the rapidly changing situation on the ground, but added that the withdrawal would be carried out in a "very safe, deliberate manner."

"Look it's a very terrible situation over there. A situation caused by the Turks... Despite our opposition they decided to make this incursion into Syria," Esper told CBS.

"And at this point in time in the last 24 hours we learned that they likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west. We also have learned in the last 24 hours that the... SDF are looking to cut a deal, if you will, with the Syrians and the Russians to counter-attack against the Turks in the north," he added.

Turkish soldiers last Wednesday launched a cross-border assault against Kurdish fighters Turkey sees as terrorists.

The operation was launched three days after Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of US forces in northeastern Syria, leading to some accusations that Trump’s move was an authorization for Turkey to invade the region.

While Trump defended his administration’s plans to withdraw US forces from northern Syria, he also made clear that the US would not allow Turkey to do anything inhumane in Syria.

Asked if troops would be leaving the country altogether, Esper clarified that the withdrawal was just from northern Syria, "which is where most of our forces are."

Trump tweeted on Sunday that it was "very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change."

"The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years... Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them! We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!" he said.

He also responded to criticism of the withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria, calling the Middle East "quicksand" and those who got the US into wars in the Middle East "inept."

"The same people that got us into the Middle East Quicksand, 8 Trillion Dollars and many thousands of lives (and millions of lives when you count the other side), are now fighting to keep us there. Don’t listen to people that haven’t got a clue. They have proven to be inept!" he wrote.

On Friday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that Trump will sign an executive order expanding the administration's ability to impose sanctions on Turkish officials.

Mnuchin said that the executive order does not itself contain new sanctions, but gives Trump the authority to enact them.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Sukkot in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)